Mr. Clarke represented himself in the hearing. Chairman Matricciani began by noting that businesses had struggled in that location for the past fifteen years. Mr. Clarke testified that he plans to open a diner restaurant in the former Shoo-Fly, in the Belvedere Square market area. He submitted copies of his menu. He plans to be open seven days a week, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Specifically, he wants to be open late on Friday and Saturday nights in order to serve late night diners.
Clarke testified about his restaurant business experience. He said that he opened his first venue when he was 21 years old and has been in the restaurant and entertainment business since then. He plans to employ at least forty people at this location.
Ms. Kris Taylor, of the Belvedere Improvement Association, testified that the organization is not in support of the business being able to stay open until 4am, which Mr. Clarke was requesting. She said that her neighbors were concerned that the business would draw people from other nearby bars who have to close at 2am, creating noise and other possible disturbances. The community association had asked Mr. Clarke to reconsider his request to stay open past 2am, and he refused. Ms. Taylor said that nearby Grand Cru closes at 10. Ryan’s Daughter stays open until 2am some nights.
Commissioner Matricciani noted that, at the previous Red Maple hearing, where Mr. Clarke was a licensee until very recently, there were references to problems with the surrounding neighbors. Clarke replied that he was the owner and operator of the Red Maple for fifteen years and was only asked to meet with the community association twice during that time. Any other concerns that people may have had were never brought to his attention. He did have one violation on his record, for serving an underage police cadet, which came with a $500 fine.
In response to Ms. Taylor’s suggestions, Clarke said that he was very opposed to the idea of closing at 2am. He pointed out that other businesses at this location had closed. He also said that the community’s concerns were overblown, because the nearest residence is a football field away. On the other hand, the Red Maple shared a wall with residential properties and did not have a problem with noise. Clarke said that it would be premature to shut down the option of being open late before he had been given a chance. Under further questioning from Commissioner Greenfield, Clarke pointed out that there are other locations that are open late or all night, including Sip and Bite in Canton, Never on Sunday in Mount Vernon. Greenfield responded that those examples were in very different neighborhoods from the Belvedere Square area. Clarke gave the example of another restaurant in Federal Hill, and Greenfield responded, “you’re making my point.”
Ms. Taylor pointed out that the York Road area near Belvedere Square had suffered from some bad licensees, including Gators and Craig’s/Favorites Pub. Since there is relatively little ambient noise along York Road and Northern Parkway in the middle of the night, the sound travels.
Under further questioning, Mr. Clarke insisted that he would not be promoting his business to college students but could be promoting it to people in the hospitality industry, who are getting off of work at other nearby locations that have to close earlier.
At this point, Commissioner Greenfield noted that there was a process issue with this application: Mr. Clarke had not requested to be open during extended hours, so it was not posted properly for that request. In addition, the state legislative district in which this address is located – the 43rd – may not even allow extended hours. Deputy Executive Secretary Tom Akras chimed in that late night hours require a separate application and approvals from city agencies, including the fire department and the department of housing and community development.